BCVFD has 37 active members, each of whom are specially trained in fire protection and rescue strategies. Some members compose a special hazmat team, some volunteer with junior firefighters and some are trained in wildland fires, among other things.
Eight stations make up the entire county department. Stations are spread out around Bell County, in Arjay, East Pineville, Fourmile, Clear Creek, Right Fork, Colmar, Calloway and Brownies Creek. In 2003, a headquarters station was erected along U.S. Highway 119 in Pineville.
Founded on April 2, 1979, BCVFD began with only 12 volunteers who wanted to see organized fire protection within Bell County. The fire department was organized by contract with the Bell County Fiscal Court and continues that contract today. The department is also overseen by a board of directors, consisting of a boardmember from each station, a chairperson and a president.
“There is not another fire department that has progressed as much as the BCVFD in 30 years time,” said Larry Browning, charter member and former fire chief of the BCVFD. Browning went on to recall some of his most vivid memories from 25 years of service to the department.
Browning recalled a winter house fire near Bell County Coal in Middlesboro many years ago. Browning said that two elderly siblings were inside the home — a brother and a sister. A generous neighbor had given the siblings a kerosene heater to heat their home throughout the night and when the heater wasn’t operated properly, it caught fire.
Browning said that the brother escaped the fire without harm, but the sister wasn’t as lucky. Browning remembered pulling the sister’s lifeless body from the home’s bedroom window. He said this particular call was the worst one of his career.
Browning said his greatest memory came from an achievement of the BCVFD. Browning said after the Ky. Fire Commissioner visited the station, the Commissioner filled out a report that read, “Every fire department in the state should be modeled after the BCVFD.”
As a memorial to BCVFD, their first truck, a 1955 Studebaker, donated by Charlie Overbay, is being restored to its original condition. After the truck is complete, it will be on display in the Southeastern Ky. Firefighters Museum in Knox County.
The BCVFD will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a public event on Saturday, June 6 at 5 p.m. at headquarters. Fellow firefighters and the public are invited to attend the event. For more information, contact current BCVFD Chief Rodney Wilder at (606) 337-8080.
Sarah Miracle is a staff writer for the Daily News. She can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.